If you are new to working as a school-based physical therapist or you have not made the switch yet from a hospital setting, you might not be familiar with all the duties. School-based physical therapists have many responsibilities. They assess students for therapy, develop a treatment plan, and administer therapy. But there are also other duties that are important including the following:
School-based physical therapists may educate school personnel to teach them strategies to promote inclusion. Therapists educate teachers and staff on how to develop, implement, and monitor the effectiveness of activities that create an inclusive environment for all students. Examples of activities may include adaptive PE games or strategies for getting around campus.
Although a physical therapist is a not a medical caseworker, they may still provide information and act as a medical liaison for students. Some students primarily receive health care services at school. Therapists can help families navigate the sometimes-confusing world of healthcare. School-based physical therapists may contact other medical services including durable medical equipment companies and community-based programs that may provide treatment for students.
Adapting School Environments
One essential role of school physical therapists is to work with schools to adapt to the environment. Whether it is the classroom, lunchroom, or playground, the school must take precautions to make sure all kids are safe. Physical therapists help schools recognize what precautions should be taken, such as installing grab bars and providing non-slip flooring in certain areas.
Making sure adaptive playground equipment is available that is age-appropriate is also important in the school environment. Ensuring the school environment is safe helps children learn and play without being fearful of getting hurt. Certain school modifications also help children be more independent and make the school a comfortable place to learn.
Promoting Safe Transportation
School-based physical therapists should participate in promoting the safe transportation of students. PTs may be involved in teaching proper body mechanics to staff to avoid injuries. They may also help the school select adaptive equipment and train transportation staff on how to use it. It’s also essential that physical therapists participate in drills and emergency evacuations of school buses to make sure transportation staff are working effectively with students with physical challenges.
All school staff and personnel can help support parents, and that includes physical therapists. Remember that parents are part of the treatment team. In some cases, parents can reinforce the therapy you provided and help children reach their goals.
You can help support parents by keeping them informed of what is going on and by maintaining open communication. It’s also helpful to listen to concerns that parents may have and work together with them to develop a solution.
The role of a school-based physical therapist involves more than just providing therapy. If you work as a physical therapist in a school, what is one responsibility that may have surprised you? Share with us in the comments section below.